"No matter how terrified you may be, own your fear and take that leap anyway because whether you land on your feet or on your butt, the journey is well worth it."
-- Laurie Laliberte
"If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough."
-- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-- Anais Nin

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Day Late, But Well Rested

My apologies, folks, for yesterday's SNAFU. I woke up early, got a little work done, then closed my eyes, "just for an hour or so." I slept, quite soundly, for the next twelve hours. Then I got up, microwaved dinner, watched a bit of TV, and went to bed.

Such is life with chronic fatigue and a drive to get things done. I have a tendency to push myself past my limits and then pay for it when my body finally says, "no more." Welp, I pushed myself on Saturday and figured I could just drop the blog post into place a few hours late on Sunday, and all would be well. Wrong.

Anyhow, I guarantee it was worth the wait because the official launch of my pal M. L. Adams's first novel Cyber Dawn is tomorrow, but you get a double sneak peek. You see, as Mike's editor, I get access to the finished manuscript which means I get to post the first few pages here for you to sample. AND I happen to know the full book, both Kindle and paperback are already loaded to Amazon just in case you want to read the rest.

While Cyber Dawn is an excellent stand-alone novel, it may very well end up as first in a series. So read this, then we'll tell you a bit more about the author.



The eleven-year-old boy stared wide-eyed at the sleek silver and black cybernetic leg. He'd seen mock-ups of course. Even tried on a few as they worked to get the sizing just right. 

This is the real thing, he thought. That's my new leg.

His heart raced at the thought of being whole again.

He tore his eyes away and looked around the surgical room. The stainless steel furniture, bright lights, and adults wearing hospital scrubs, all reminded him of his last surgery. It even smelled the same – like when his house was freshly cleaned. But to the boy, it felt different. The last time he'd been in a room just like it, they had taken his leg to keep a cancerous tumor from spreading. Something the oncologist called a synovial sarcoma. Now, they were giving him a leg back. 

An even better one.

He gazed down at the end of the bed and stared at the single hump his left foot formed under the sheets. When he'd woken up from his last surgery, groggy and disoriented from the anesthesia, his eyes tried to focus on his missing foot. His brain told him it was there. He could still feel it as part of his body. But his eyes saw something different. Where there should be two humps, there was only one.

Later, the doctors told him the sensation he felt – of his leg being there when it wasn't – was called phantom pain. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out the phantom part. The pain sure felt real enough.

He pushed the memory to the back of his mind and stared at the ceiling. He wouldn't look down again until after the surgery. Not until there were two humps.

"Okay, it's time," said a nurse from somewhere off to his right. "You're already an old pro at this. Should be a piece of cake."

She pulled a piece of surgical tubing tight around his arm. She then tapped the skin with the back of her fingers and inserted the needle. The prick used to hurt, but now it barely registered.

"You'll feel a warm sensation flow into your arm and then throughout your body," she said. "When I tell you, start counting back from one hundred."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

A few moments later, he felt the warm liquid flow into his veins. At the nurse's prompt, he began to count backwards.

"100 ... 99 ... 98 ... 97 ... 96 ... "


Six years later

The CyberLife Industries Non-Disclosure Agreement I signed contains a long list of forbidden activities. Near the top, just under you will NOT attempt to access or otherwise modify your cybernetic system, are the words: you will NOT participate in contact sports. Of course, the second my parents hopped on a plane to Europe for two months, I forged the permission slip to try out for my high school football team. 

For exactly forty days, it was the best decision of my life. I made the team, started three games at wide receiver, and met a ton of new friends. I even scored a date with the head of the cheerleading squad. For the first time in six years, life was normal. Instead of a lab rat, I felt like an actual teenager.

That was all before the helmet-on-helmet hit.

The medic at the game on Friday night diagnosed me with a concussion. But I knew better. I knew right away what it was. The hit screwed up my neural cybernetic augment. 

* * *

By early Monday morning, the headache was so bad I called Megan, my cybernetic systems technician. Not surprisingly, she totally freaked out. After a half-dozen or so expletives, she demanded I meet her right away. 

For almost three hours, I'd been lying on a cold, stainless steel surgical table in a secret underground laboratory at the CyberLife headquarters. Normally I didn't mind our early morning appointments. Three hours was a lot of time for a nap or, in extreme cases, to cram for an exam or finish a homework assignment. With a midterm starting in less than an hour, I actually needed to study. My headache wouldn't allow it.

I looked over at Megan. She sat at the lab's lone workstation, hunched over a laptop. Her fingers moved rapidly, filling the otherwise quiet space with the sound of clattering keys. A light blue CyberLife lab coat covered her slender body. Her long, blond hair was pulled up in a ponytail and her blue eyes sparkled from the light of the laptop screen. Despite the boredom, and the pain, I smiled to myself. Even mad, she sure is easy to look at, I thought.

Megan tried to hide it, but I knew she was watching me in her peripheral vision. I could feel the anger flowing from her eyes. Anger because I disobeyed her direct orders. Anger because I woke her up at three in the morning. But most of all, anger because I let her down. 

"Megan, how much longer?" I asked.

Without answering, she stood and walked in my direction. She stopped at the bank of diagnostic monitors sitting on a wheeled cart near my table. The monitors, connected wirelessly to my various cybernetic components, displayed the status of my heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital systems – human and cybernetic. Placing both hands on the cart's handle, she began to push it back toward her workstation.

"Almost done?" I asked.

With a heavy sigh, Megan stopped the cart and turned to face me. "Benjamin, you do realize I'm in the process of repairing your brain?"

I swallowed hard. 

"Keep distracting me," she said as she pointed at one of the monitors. "And I might accidentally make this little zero here a one. The next thing you know, Ben's taking first-grade math again."

"And that's a downgrade?" I laughed. "You know I suck at math."

Megan opened her mouth to respond, but instead shook her head and stormed back to her workstation.

"I'm sorry," I muttered.


I spent the next ten minutes looking around the small laboratory in an attempt to focus on something – anything really – other than the pain in my head. Up until earlier that day, I thought I had been in every lab at CyberLife. Both at the headquarters in Brookwood, Colorado, where I'd spent all morning, and the secret research campus in the mountains west of town, where I spent most of my teenage years. However, this one was new and, in my opinion, barely qualified as a lab. It was dimly lit, had no heat, and was four stories under ground. The only furniture was Megan's workstation and my cold, stainless steel, surgical table. The room seemed more like a medieval dungeon than a place where she should be performing high-tech surgery on my brain.

"Why are we down here?" I asked, determined to strike up a conversation. "Is this even a lab?"

Megan walked over and set her laptop down on the table next to me. "If you must know," she said. "We're down here because my idiot teenage patient decided to play football, got himself smacked in the head, and just about scrambled the cybernetic augment attached to his brain."

I sat still, suddenly wishing I'd kept my mouth shut.

"And, so Dr. Merrick doesn't find out," she continued. "I decided we should meet down here this morning instead of in my office, which is two doors down from his."

Megan folded her arms across her chest and arched an eyebrow. "Make sense?"

I nodded slowly. "Yeah, makes sense."

"Good." She turned back to her laptop. "Now shut up so I can finish."

"Any idea how much longer?"

Megan sighed and shook her head. "You're impossible Benjamin."

"I have a math mid-term at eight."

She glanced at her watch and resumed the rapid fire typing. "Lucky for you, I've figured out the problem. Just need to upload a new software build."

I groaned. New software meant new bugs. The last thing I needed was a system malfunction during mid-term exam week. Then again, being virtually stabbed in the foot every minute during an exam would do little to help either. Instead of arguing, I lay back down on the table. Wearing only my boxers and socks, the cold metal surface sent a shiver up my spine. 

"You look cold," she said. "Want to borrow my coat? I just need to tweak a few more things before we get started with the upload."

"You read my mind," I said. "It's freezing in here."

Megan slipped off her lab coat and placed it over my legs. She wore a tight, light blue sweater and khaki pants. The outfit provided enough of a distraction that I didn't notice her hands slide under the coat. She wrapped her ice cold fingers around my bare leg.


I shot forward and tried to push, pull, and claw her hands off me. It was no use. I had learned long ago that the cute, blue-eyed blonde was freakishly strong.

"Your hands are freezing!"

Her grip tightened. "Oh, they are? I had no idea."

I tried to punch her shoulder, but she dodged out of the way, and I almost fell off the table.

"Not funny Megan!"

"Oh, don't be such a big baby." She let go and tucked her lab coat tight around my legs. "There, is that better?"

"Gee, thanks," I grumbled. "You cheated and tweaked the temperature sensors in my leg, didn't you?"

"Maybe." Her grin widened.

I shook my head and cursed the CyberLife engineers who had made my leg so damn realistic. Not only was it nearly impossible to detect visually, its lifelike synthetic skin could sense touch as well as a range of temperatures and relay the associated sensation to my brain. 

"How's your head?"

"Still hurts."

"You sure?"

Several moments later, I let out a deep sigh of relief. The headache was gone. Cute, strong, and ridiculously good at her job, I thought. "Thanks Megan. You're the best."

"No problem," she answered. "And while I question that your brain is still intact and functioning correctly, my tests revealed no major damage."

"So what happened?"

With a shrug, she said, "I think the impact occurred just as your augment was feeding stored Cytoxinol into your system. The process was interrupted, and a software bug kept it from starting again. The lack of Cytoxinol caused your headache. To be honest, I'm surprised it didn't result in more problems. You were lucky."

I whistled softly. Cytoxinol was a CyberLife-manufactured drug I took daily. I didn't know the details, only that it somehow kept my body and my cybernetic system in balance.

"What if I didn't call you to get it fixed?" I asked.

"You'd have been dead in two days."

My mouth fell open as I waited for the punch line. When one didn't come, I said, "Dead?"

"I'm serious Ben," Megan replied. "You're taking Cytoxinol for a reason. Without it, your cybernetic augments would poison you." 

I let out a deep breath. Joining the football team now seemed like a pretty dumb idea.

Megan squeezed my arm. "Now you know why I was so angry?"

"Was angry?"

"Am angry. Don't push your luck." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a black data cable. "Since you're in a hurry, I'll use the wire. It transfers data a hundred times faster." 

Before I could protest, she bent down and slipped her hands up my boxer shorts. I tensed, both because I expected her hands to be cold and because she had her fingers wrapped around my upper thigh.

"Easy there Benjamin," she said.

"Geez Megan, a little notice next time?"

"Oh, like you're not used to it," she joked. "I've been putting my hands in your pants for three years."

My face flushed red. "Megan, seriously?"

She laughed, tucked her fingers under the synthetic skin, and rolled it down past my knee. My cybernetic leg's rigid, titanium alloy shell and flexible Kevlar fabric muscles made it look like something out of a science fiction movie. Even now, six years later, I had to look twice to convince my brain it really was my leg.

After plugging in the cable and entering a series of commands on her laptop, Megan sat on the corner of the table and crossed her arms. 

"Okay Benjamin, you've got ten minutes," she said, a serious look on her face. "Start talking."

"Talk?" I replied tentatively.

She scowled and leaned in close. In a voice barely above a whisper, she said, "Tell me why, of all the things you could possibly do, you decided to join the football team? Not the golf team. Not the debate team or the chess team. The full-contact football team." 

At that moment, I realized the true downside to the sparse, underground lab.

Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.


About M.L. Adams

M.L. Adams was born in the Midwest and raised in Colorado. His parents, both avid readers, instilled a love for books at an early age. His 3rd and 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Watson, encouraged a passion for writing. Cyber Dawn includes many of his experiences as a childhood cancer survivor and amputee. He still lives in Colorado with his wife and two children.

Feel free to contact him at: author.mladams@gmail.com

For news and more information: www.mladams.com

Monday, December 2, 2013

And You All Thought He Was Done

My pal, Tony Healey, and I have been working on the Far From Home series for such a long time that it's gotten more and more difficult to leave with each installment. This novel/novella was not supposed to be written, or released, for several months, but Tony couldn't help himself. After finishing the twelve-part serial, he thought he was ready to move on to something else for a bit. [spoiler alert] That's why the initial serial had a tight ending with very few loose ends.

But I guess Jessica King and her crew kept calling his name. So here it is, the first in a trilogy set in the Far From Home Universe, and you all get first peek at the first chapter. The book's Official Launch is today although hardcore FFH fans are already buying kindle copies.

Starbase 6 was a welcome sight as it loomed into view. The Defiant slowed from the tremendous speeds of exiting the Jump. As it approached the huge Union space station, Lieutenant Kyle Banks handled the helm controls of the ship with consummate skill.

Feels good to come back here, Captain Jessica King thought to herself. Like coming home.

After more than a year away on a mission of exploration, they had returned to Station 6 for some much needed supplies and minor repairs. The Defiant had also been promised a few upgrades, and Jessica fully intended on making sure she got them.

The old girl could use them, she thought. And the much needed rest . . .

"Starbase control has made contact, Captain," Ensign Olivia Rayne reported from the comm. station, her hand to her earpiece.

King nodded. "Patch me through."

She waited a few seconds for the connection to be made. "Captain Jessica King, Union Starship Defiant."

"Please state your prefix number," an artificial voice said.

"T.U. zero-one-one-three-eight," Jessica said.

There was a brief delay, then the voice announced that they were cleared to dock. "Docking bay three. Please do not exceed standard thruster speed."

"Close channel," King said.

Just like old times . . .

She looked ahead at the large, circular space station. Tall centrifuge at the centre, spokes extending out at the middle to form a wide outer ring. Along the ring were enough docking bays to accommodate up to twenty vessels, with many of the bays currently occupied.

Lieutenant Banks brought the Defiant – an old but well-kept Archon class battleship – to a relative crawl and lined up the port side with the slowly rotating docking ring. At one time, Archon class vessels had been the backbone of the fleet. Now they were little more than relics. While the Draxx war raged, they still had a purpose. But now, in this newfound era of interstellar peace, the Archons were slowly being taken out of service.

Decommissioned. Scrapped. Thankfully, there were no such plans for the Defiant.


The thought of her being dismantled, ending up as salvage, made Jessica shudder.

"Aligning to dock," Banks reported, his voice taut with effort as he concentrated on the task at hand. Starbases were not designed to accommodate simple and easy docking manoeuvres.

"Keep her steady, Lieutenant. You know the drill."

"Aye," Banks said. His hands flitted over the controls, the Defiant edging to the left to butt up against the station. "I could do this with my eyes closed."

Jessica smiled. "Well, please refrain from doing so on this occasion, Banks. I'd like my ship kept in one piece for the time being. It'd be a shame to crash just before we park."

"Yes Ma'am," he said with a chuckle.

"Less than two metres clearance," Commander Chang reported from the science and tactical station to the Captain's right. The Defiant nestled up to the dock with a slight bump a moment later.

"Good job Mister Banks. Commander Chang, activate all moorings and equalize atmospheres," King ordered. She got up from the captain's chair. The Defiant was now under the momentum of the station itself, like a very heavy passenger on a merry-go-round. "Power down all non-essential systems. Commander, observe standard protocol."

"Yes Captain," Commander Greene said as he relayed her orders to the rest of the ship. Every department would shut down those systems that weren't needed while the Defiant underwent any repairs and refurbishments that had been scheduled for her.

"When the bridge is cleared, come and find me," Jessica told him.

The Commander nodded. Jessica ran her eyes over her team – Kyle Banks at the helm, Olivia Rayne at the comm. station, Lisa Chang at the science and tactical station, and Del Greene by her side as her second in command – and all she could feel was pride at having the fortune of serving with such a fine group of men and women.

"I'll be in my quarters," Jessica said as she left the bridge. "Well done everyone."

Click here to find Enigma on Amazon.com

Huh. I thought the first chapter revealed a bit more than that. I suppose you'll just have to check out the book while you're waiting in those long lines at the mall.

By now, you all know Tony's bio. He's from England. So please, stop asking him to fire me because I don't catch his spelling errors. He writes in the Queen's English. They spell funny over there. ;)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And Now for Something Quite Different

If you've been with me for a bit, you've already met my friend, author and teacher, Matt Posner. Matt's latest venture is a non-fiction manual, written almost textbook style, entitled How to Write Dialogue. It's (obviously) aimed at writers of all levels who wish to sharpen their dialogue-writing skills, but I'll let Matt tell you a bit more about himself and his book.
Hi Laurie!

Thanks for hosting a sample from How to Write Dialogue, my technical manual for writers at all experience levels. This book offers prescriptions for good dialogue writing with plentiful and, I hope, entertaining examples, both those written by me, and those written by my bullpen of contributors including J.A. Beard, Cynthia Echterling, Marita A. Hansen, Junying Kirk, Stuart Land, Mysti Parker, Roquel Rodgers, Jess C. Scott, Chrystalla Thoma, Ey Wade, and Georgina Young-Ellis.

The book also has essays on dialogue by Tim Ellis and Jess C. Scott and numerous illustrations by fine artist Eric Henty.

Here's a selection from a part of the book called "Dialogue Provides Information."

See what you think of this next example.

Example 36 — Elinor and Marianne

"Mother is coming to visit me," said Elinor. "For a week."

"Really?" asked Marianne. "She hasn't come to stay with me in… what is it? Eight years?"

"Your house is crowded, with your two nephews in the guest room, that you took in when your husband's brother died. And the stray dog you adopted on one of your monthly trips to Perth Amboy."

"Do you really think that's why?" Marianne asked, setting down her coffee cup. "Don't you think there might be another reason?"

Elinor sighed. "Not again, Marianne. Puh-leeze, no more 'Mom loved you best.'"

"She said so."


"When we three all went to Newport News to settle Grandma's estate. Three years ago."

"And you still have her emerald brooch," Marianne complained.

"I do not."

"You do. And Mom said she preferred you."

"She was joking," said Elinor. "It was ironic. You two were cuddled up with a bowl of popcorn watching The Way We Were."

"That never happened!" Elinor was shocked.

"Yes it did!"

"No," Marianne sniffed. "We were watching The Bridges of Madison County."

This passage, my imitation of chick lit, seems to be about the two sisters quarreling over their mother's love, and really it is, with lots of conflict and characterization, but there's necessary exposition in the passage also. We learn about who lives in Marianne's house; that Marianne is married; that she travels to Perth Amboy; that Grandma is three years dead; that there is an emerald brooch in dispute. We also are alerted to Dad's apparent absence (he wasn't in Newport News).

Dialogue passages like this are a staple of fiction, and an alert reader recognizes one for what it is, the satisfaction of a technical requirement rather than an attempt at verisimilitude. However, if you add enough positives to dialogue like this, your reader will probably not mind.

The technical action in this case is to have the characters remind each other of what they have done in the past. It can be accomplished in a number of ways.

1) Have the characters narrate their past actions during a conversation, resulting in a short in-character summary rather than a fully developed scene.

2) Have characters who are getting to know each other relate stories of their pasts.

3) Have one character tell a second character information about a third character, who may or may not be present to react.

4) Have characters argue over past action and narrate prior events as components of the argument. (This is what I did in the previous example.)

Note that people's versions of events are not entirely trustworthy, and people may well dispute each other's accounts of the past.
Matt Posner is a New York City teacher and a writer of fiction and nonfiction. The author of the acclaimed ongoing young adult fantasy series School of the Ages and co-author of the top-selling advice book Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships, Matt lives in New York City with his wife Julie. Matt is also a member of Bernard Schaffer's Kindle All-Stars and maintains a growing series of interviews with writers at his website http://schooloftheages.webs.com. Matt has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

How to Write Dialogue is Matt's sixth full-length book.

Links: http://schooloftheages.webs.com



This book: 




Happy Writing!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Oh Gosh, I Hate Peas

How many times have I uttered those words? I dislike peas so strongly that I will go to to great lengths to avoid having them even sit near my plate. To this day, the face I make when it's even suggested I may ingest a pea, is the same one any child makes when they encounter a food they don't like. It's there before I can stop it, like a nervous tic.

BUT, I will try anything once.

That's how I discovered that maybe these southern folk are on to something with this whole pea salad thing. Anyhow, I thought you would all like my take on this dish I didn't even know existed until about a month or two ago.

You see, my landlady invited me to join her and her family for a birthday party. As usual, I offered my assistance as soon as I arrived. She asked me to peel and chop the hard boiled eggs for the pea salad. I thought I heard her wrong, but I did as I was told. I peeled and chopped the eggs, then went back to her and asked what she wanted me to do with them.

She said, "just dump them in and stir it up, Darlin'. Everythin' else is already in there."

"Dump them in where?"

"That bowl right there next to you."

To my left, sat a medium-sized mixing bowl with this concoction of peas, onion, and mayonnaise that was simply waiting for me to dump in the eggs. So I dropped them in, gave it all a stir, and grabbed a spoon so I could have a taste. (I did tell you I'll try anything once, right?)

I fell so in love with this one that I demanded the recipe, then I proceeded to play with it in my own kitchen until I had a version I could call my own.

And to all you whole/raw food freaks out there: yes, I began with canned peas because Miss Debbie and her entire family use canned peas.

I like the Green Giant sweet peas for this one because they're sweet, firm, and fresh.
Use the best here, because most of your flavor is from the peas you choose.

Almost Miss Debbie's Pea Salad

2 (15 oz.) cans of peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion
2-3 strips of bacon, cooked until crispy then crumbled
3 hard cooked large eggs, peeled and chopped
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 c or so* plain Greek yogurt
1/8 t dill
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and chill
Serve cold

*This is that ingredient you eyeball, just like for any other salad of this type (macaroni, potato, tuna, egg, chicken, etc.).
I still hate peas, just not as much as I used to.

Happy Cooking!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What Do You Mean You've Never Had Eggplant!?

Those were the exact words that flew from my lips when my landlady's daughter told me she was looking forward to my latest culinary experiment. I mean, I realize we're in the southwest, but seriously. This is still America! You've got the Olive Garden!

Turns out, her mother had never tried eggplant either. Well, that sealed the deal. By golly, there would be eggplant lasagna in their collective future. Even if they hated it, I would ensure they would at least have the opportunity to try eggplant in the near future. After all, it was in season; it was on sale (crazy cheap, which means, as usual, I bought way too much); and I was craving it.

Now, for those of you in the know, eggplant lasagna is basically just a variation of eggplant parmigiana. And, if you've been following along, you'll recognize that the components of the recipe are pretty much the same as those for my spaghetti (squash) pie from a few weeks back. So here's a tip: make both the same week (or day even) and freeze one to have later. Better yet, double both recipes and freeze one of each.

A lot of good Italian cooking is simply variations on a few good themes. In this case, a sauce bolognese and a cheese mixture with eggs used as a binder. The major difference between this recipe and most other lasagnas of any type is that the eggplant is not just part of the show; it's the star. I'm leaving the noodles out because I really shouldn't be having the wheat.

Knowing that, make sure when shopping for your ingredients, you invest in the best you can afford. This is especially true, always, when purchasing things like olive oil. So here we go . . .
Before you begin

Slice your eggplant lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices and lay it out on oiled and/or lined cookie sheets. Bake it for about 4-5 minutes on each side at 425 (f) and hold it aside.

There's really no need to season it because it's got such good flavor on its own and it's a substitution for noodles which tend to suck the flavor out of a dish.
Noodle-Free Lasagna

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
24 oz. tomato sauce*

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. ricotta
1 c. grated or shredded parmesan, divided
10 oz. (about 2 1/2 c.) shredded mozzarella, divided
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

enough eggplant prepared as above to make 3 layers in your baking pan

Saute beef and onion until meat is just cooked through and onion becomes translucent.
Add garlic and Italian seasoning and cook about two minutes more.
Drain and return to pan.
Add sauce and bring to boil.
Lower heat and allow to simmer for about five minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1/2 c. parmesan, 8 oz. mozzarella, and seasonings.

Lightly oil a 9x12x2" or 9x13x2" baking dish with olive oil.
Pour a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of the pan.
Layer in eggplant**, then 1/2 of cheese mixture, then 1/3 of sauce.
Add a last layer of eggplant** and top with the last 1/3 of sauce.
Sprinkle top with reserved cheeses.
Bake in a 400 degree oven until heated through and top is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes (sauce will bubble, but test center).
Let stand about 10-15 minutes before serving.
*You can use your favorite canned/jarred spaghetti sauce, plain tomato sauce, or your own secret family recipe. It's up to you. Remember, it's your kitchen.
**When you lay out your layers of eggplant, alternate the direction of the layers so it doesn't completely come apart when you slice into it.

Use sliced or crumbled Italian sausage instead of ground meat.
Go vegetarian (but not vegan) by substituting mushrooms instead of meat.
If you prefer meatballs, saute them in the pan, then in the sauce, just as you would with the ground beef, but reserve them and serve them on the side.
Use zucchini or yellow squash, prepared the same way as the eggplant for a light, summer dish instead of a hearty, winter meal.
When I double a recipe like this, I like to put it in those disposable plastic baking pans so I can just put one in the freezer. You can assemble it and freeze it, then take it out another time and throw it in the oven. It will take a full day (sometimes longer) in the fridge to defrost.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hashtag I Love My Job

If you happen to follow me on twitter (or as I like to call it, "the twittah," just because it makes me giggle), you know I like to play with various hashtags, just because.

The only one I use seriously on a regular basis is #ilovemyjob. Why? Because I do. And the following excerpt from one of my latest editing projects is a prime example of why I love my job, why I do what I do, and why, even when I feel a bit overwhelmed by too much work or a challenging project, I get it done and move on to the next.

Kim Thompson contacted me a while back and asked if I could do a rush job on her 'script. I said yes for two reasons:

My roommates had literally eaten every morsel of food in the house, then moved out, thereby leaving me with no groceries and no grocery money. So I needed cash fast.
I had some free editing time and I always panic when that happens. Even if I know I have upcoming jobs that will take care of everything.

Anyhow, she needed the book done for an upcoming tour to promote the first in this series. She'll now have a second to show off and perhaps be able to sell to those who've already purchased the first volume. AND what better day to launch a book that includes witches, ghosts, and werewolves and falls into the paranormal category than on Halloween?

So here, I offer you a taste of one of my most fun, and most beloved, projects this year, Chapter One of Once Upon a Haunted Moon by K. R. Thompson.
Chapter One


Stryker's Pass, Southwest Virginia 

October 7, 1765 

Her name had been Ella. Such a long time ago. But that was before she became nameless. 

Before the Fire Witch came. 

She shivered in spite of the heat from the nearby wagon. Flames licked at the hem of her calico dress. 

The wagon burst into flame as something exploded and shoved a massive heat wave against her tiny body. Scorched bits of canvas flew over her head, floating like pitiful flags of surrender. Her cap flew off her small, blonde head, the wind blowing it end over end -- a circle of seemingly impossible, pristine white that soon was engulfed in a choking mass of smoke. 

She heard the screams. Hundreds of thousands of piercing cries that seemed to echo over and over, back and forth in her head. Pleading cries for mercy, of anger, of pain…a tiny part of her tried to reason against the multitude of voices, the shrieks and groans that seemed to go an eternity. After all, hadn't there only been thirty-five people in their wagon train? Surely, it shouldn't take so long to die… 

A blast of wind sent putrid smoke flooding through her nostrils, and she gasped, breaking free of the trance that held her fast. It was then the smoke parted in a small path, as if in a bow to its master. Her blue eyes widened, and while a small part of her mind registered the deafening roar of flames, the sudden absence of scream, there was a dull feeling of certainty that she was alone, and that she knew what was coming next… 

She had always known. It was that feeling you got sometimes a moment before something happened that should take you by surprise, but didn't, because you knew it was going to happen. Not everyone could do it, her little brother Billy, and her papa couldn't. But she'd always known things. Her mama always knew things, too…like when she was going to get sick, or her papa was going to bring home game from hunting. Papa had always grinned at them, and told her and Mama they were "canny" and "good at guessing." She wondered why they hadn't seen this coming, this gruesome, hot death at the end of a journey that had promised to be so rewarding. A new world, free for the taking for those courageous enough to seek it, who knew that courage would have been their undoing. 

What she hadn't known was that the woman who stepped through the walls of smoke was Death -- and that she was beautiful. Firelight glinted of perfect, white skin, and long red hair -- the color of blood, streamed back from a heart-shaped face. Ella had almost decided that this woman was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Even more beautiful than Mama…until those huge, black eyes of Death stared at her. They were eyes that didn't have any bottoms, like still, dark water. 

And they tried to pull her under. 

"Come to me, child," the Fire Witch said in a musical voice that sounded like raindrops, and a smile that should have coaxed, showed sharp, bloodstained teeth instead. 

Ella felt the pull of the Fire Witch's eyes, drawing her closer. She pushed back, shaking her head emphatically, wisps of blonde hair stinging her eyes. 

"No," she said in a small, shaking voice, and started to back away slowly, her blue eyes locked on the black ones that bore into hers and continued their pull on her. She felt the drag of power, and she gasped, feeling as if she were drowning within herself, into the impossible, endless ocean that made an eight-year-old girl. She heard herself scream, a pitiful, raspy sound, full of smoke… 

"Ellie?" A tiny voice trembled from its hiding place near the trees, bringing her back to the surface just as her curly-headed little brother toddled into view, wielding a branch that was nearly as big as he was, a ferocious scowl on his determined little face. 

"No, Billy! Run!" Ella shrieked at him, and watched in horror, as he stopped and stared at her for a full second, bottom lip quivering, then dropped his branch and darted back into the shadows of the trees. 

"Touching," the Fire Witch sneered, "But you shan't save him, any more than you shall save yourself." 

Ella turned to follow her brother, stopping just long enough to snatch the sycamore branch he had dropped. A cold hand gripped her shoulder, spinning her around so fast her vision blurred and her neck threatened to snap. Somehow, she brought the ragged, sharp edge of the branch up and shoved with every last bit of strength she had, and was rewarded with a sickening crunch that jarred her hands so hard they numbed. 

The sound that came next was like nothing Ella had ever heard before. A shriek, a howl, a gurgling scream of hatred all mingled and washed over the little girl in a wave so strong that she turned loose of the branch that had pierced the Fire Witch's side, and clapped her hands over her ears, shutting her eyes as tight as she could against the nightmare that stood inches from her. 

Then Ella died. 

The feeling of weightlessness felt odd, she thought, as she felt the air whoosh against her stinging face. Yes, it was odd, she decided, but then, she'd never been an angel before. She supposed it would take some getting used to. 

The fact that she hadn't at all died, but only had been backhanded by the furious Fire Witch and sent flying through the air, hit her when she tasted the coppery tang of blood that filled her mouth. That was a split second before she landed in the underbrush at the edge of the forest. 

She lay dazed for a few seconds, her vision doubled. She struggled to her knees, ignoring the pain that shot through her tiny frame. The world spun once she tried to stand, so she dropped back to her knees until her vision cleared, then dared to look back at the Fire Witch, who had quieted. 

A dozen or more crows circled the Fire Witch, flitting amongst the flames like black demons. The sycamore branch still pierced her body like an arrow, and the Fire Witch turned to and fro, as if trying to figure out how such a thing had happened. Each time she touched the branch, she'd scream as if burnt. 

Ella hoped her crows would eat her, and that the branch was stuck in her for forever. Even though the Fire Witch appeared to have forgotten her, Ella crawled on her hands and knees through the thorns and bushes, and into the dark shadows of the forest. 

A few moments later, she heard the sound of a little boy who had come once more to the clearing to save his big sister, "Ellieee!" 

A shrill scream echoed through the trees seconds later, and crows filled the dark sky. She didn't remember how long she had lain in the hollow log, or how she had even gotten there, but she remembered crying for what seemed forever. Knowing there was no one left to go back to, she stood, and after a few wobbling steps, ran deeper into the shadows of the forest, wondering if there was anyone left in the world, or if the Fire Witch had taken them all.
K.R. Thompson was raised in the mountains of southwest Virginia. She resides in Bland County with her husband, son, two cats, and an undeterminable amount of chickens. 

When she is not writing, she is an avid reader and a firm believer in magic. She still watches for evidence of Bigfoot in the mud of Wolf Creek. 

She can be found on her website— 

And on Facebook-- 

The Keeper Saga Books:

Hidden Moon 

The first installment of the Keeper Saga, Hidden Moon is a story of romance, adventure, mystery and magic. 

Released June 2013, available in paperback and kindle format. 

Once Upon a Haunted Moon 

The second installment of the Keeper Saga, Once Upon a Haunted Moon is a story of suspense, magic, and adventure. 

Released October 2013, available in paperback and kindle format. 

Wynter’s War 

Coming Fall 2014
I'll also share a secret with you: If I have one wish to be fulfilled in 2014, it's that Kim chooses me to edit Wynter's War. That, in itself, should tell those of you who know me well how much I love and believe in this series.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

WHAT Kind of Pie?

Say the words, "spaghetti pie" in Greater Boston, especially the North Suburban area, and people will grab their forks and follow you like zombies. But utter those same words here in the Southwest and you're met with blank stares. Your friends might begin planning an intervention, thinking you've lost your mind, and the neighbors will lock their doors and close their curtains if they see you walking up their driveways.

But spaghetti pie is one of my favorite dishes and my BBF (Best Boston Friend) was the one who taught me how to make it. Hers was the best!

These days, as I avoid pasta and keep gluten in my diet to a minimum, I find myself missing this favorite like you can't believe. So last week, when spaghetti squash was on sale, I snagged a couple and decided to experiment.

The verdict? I believe "no leftovers" pretty much sums it up.

Start by slicing your spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and loose pulp and set aside if you want to roast the seeds later. Lay the squash cut side down on a lined baking sheet. Roast it in a 375 degree (f) oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Err on the side of it being underdone rather than fully cooked. Allow it to cool for a bit until you can handle it, then scrape out the guts with a fork. (Resist the temptation to eat the squash right out of the shell -- it's yummy!)

If that's not enough instruction for you, there are video tutorials all over youtube to teach you how to get the spaghetti out of spaghetti squash. You can also do it in the microwave, but I prefer the oven. It develops the flavor better.

Now you can use the "spaghetti" as the base for whatever recipe you choose. For this recipe, let it sit in a strainer for a few minutes to get rid of the excess moisture.

Not Quite Spaghetti Pie

1 lb lean ground beef
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t basil
1/4 t sage (crushed or rubbed, not ground*)
1/2 t garlic powder
salt to taste
24 oz tomato sauce

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c grated or shredded parmesan cheese (or romano, or asiago, or a blend of the three)
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1/2 t Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

1 (3-4 lb) spaghetti squash, prepared as above

Brown meat and onions in a large frypan until meat is cooked through
Drain and return to pan
Add herbs and salt and allow to heat until you can smell the herbs
Pour in tomato sauce and bring to boil
Reduce heat and simmer for about five to ten minutes

Combine second group of ingredients in a large bowl, holding aside a cup of mozzarella
Fold in "spaghetti" until it's coated somewhat evenly
Lightly grease a 9x12" or 9x13" baking dish with olive oil
Spread spaghetti squash mixture evenly on bottom of pan
Add meat and sauce
Top with remaining cup of mozzarella

Bake in a 375 oven for about 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly
Allow to stand for about ten minutes before serving

*I have nothing against ground sage, but it's more potent than the rubbed sage I usually use, so cut the amount at least by half.

I would say this serves eight, but everyone will come back for seconds, so if there's any question, double the recipe. Doubling works in a giant lasagna pan, but the heating time at the end will take longer. You'll also want to cover it so your cheese doesn't get too browned on top.

Generally, when I double a recipe like this, I prepare it in two of those disposable Gladware storage/bakeware containers so I can just stick one in the freezer. You can freeze it before you heat it in the oven, then just remove it from the freezer and heat it at 375 until it's hot, but that will take at least an hour and you want to cover it with aluminum foil so your cheese doesn't burn.

What to do with the leftovers? What leftovers?

Happy Cooking!